Onus not binding on China
By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-17 08:06
As expected, Japan confirmed on Monday that China had replaced it as the world's second largest economy. But the confirmation was accompanied by some Western and Japanese media outlets calling for China to share more international responsibilities.
Some Chinese scholars say the West exhorting China to share greater international responsibilities is as bad as the long-existing "China threat theory", which demonizes China.
But for Jin Canrong, professor and vice-dean of the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China, the two are different. "The 'China threat theory' assumes that China is an evil country," he says. "But the 'China responsibility theory' is based on the assumption that it is a powerful country."
That's why he doesn't see any conspiracy behind the "China responsibility theory". The reason for such misunderstanding, he says, lies in certain cognitive gaps between Chinese and foreigners on China's development and achievements.
Jin says it is not wise to draw such a conspiracy conclusion. The "China responsibility theory" means three things: China is a rising power, China is cooperative and China hasn't shouldered its responsibilities fully.
Hence, such a theory indicates that the West is increasingly accepting China's rise.
The problem is that Western countries want China to shoulder the responsibilities that they want it to. Jin doesn't think the "China responsibility theory" will necessarily have a negative impact on China. On the contrary, the theory offers challenges and opportunities both and, hence, can act as a driver for China's development.
Some United States-based think tanks say the rise of China is one of the most important events of the 21st century.
But they say China is lingering on a strategic crossroads without being sure whether it will accept the existing international order under its leadership.
The West, especially the US, has many expectations when it comes to China's responsibilities, Jin says. On the economic front, the US expects China to open its domestic market further and reduce its bilateral trade surplus. In politics, it wants China to be more liberal and democratic like the West. In military affairs, it requires China to be more transparent and exhibit mutual trust. In diplomacy, China is expected to be more cooperative in resolving key affairs like the Korean Peninsula nuclear and Iran nuclear issues.
In some sense, Washington's expectations of Beijing seek to build China on the US model, Jin says. "That is something China cannot agree to."
Because of different values and interests, China and the West, especially the US, differ sharply on the definition of responsibility. China's view of "a responsible power" is different from the West's "China responsibility theory".
China has shouldered more international responsibilities since the Asia financial crisis in the late 1990s. It is one of the few countries that participates in most international organizations, and has made great efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula and Iran nuclear issues. It has exempted debts of developing countries, too.
Despite all this, the West, especially the US, keeps pressuring China to shoulder more international responsibilities.
What they don't understand is that China still faces great challenges. First, China needs to prioritize its national interests.
Second, China is now an integral part of the international community. It has benefited from the international system over the past three decades, and is now it is playing an active role to improve it. Finding a way to strike a balance between maintaining the international system and improving it, however, is not the responsibility of China alone. The US has a decisive role to play.
Third, the US demands that China be more responsible to the US - and even compromise with it.
Since China's rise has caused tremendous changes in the world, it is natural for it to face more pressure from the international community, especially Western countries. Perhaps the best way for China to avoid hostility is to have more communication and interaction with the rest of the world.
Jin says China's involvement in international affairs is getting deeper. But he believes it should raise the level of its participation and improve the way it deals with certain international issues. "China needs its own voice and has to make more proposals and suggest solutions to more problems."
"Strategic mutual trust is established on the basis of interaction, which can facilitate agreement and eliminate misunderstandings," Jin says. "We need to make more efforts to enable the international community to understand China better."
China is still a developing country. Domestic development, and not an influential presence in the international community, is still its biggest responsibility. For example, China is still just a regional power and can hardly develop as a strong maritime power. There are some thorny problems, such as the Korean Peninsula issue and the South China Sea territorial disputes, which China needs great wisdom to deal with. Hence, China is still far from becoming a global power.
"So it is not right for the West to expect that China to share international responsibilities according to their demands," Jin says.